BOT votes to give honorary diplomas

By Leah Spagnoli

NIU will bestow honorary doctoral degrees this May to Eric Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory, and Leland Strom, chairman of the board and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration.

The NIU Board of Trustees voted Thursday to award the honorary degrees to Isaacs and Strom during the spring graduate school commencement ceremony.

The ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 13 at the NIU Convocation Center.

“I am both deeply honored and humbled by the decision of Northern Illinois University to award me the honorary degree,” Strom said. “I respect NIU’s decision to honor someone from the agricultural industry for an honorary degree.”

Strom, from rural Maple Park, was a business student at NIU 35 years ago. He went on to study agriculture at Kishwaukee College. According to a press release from NIU Media Relations, Strom was appointed to a six-year term on the FCA board by former President George W. Bush in 2006. He was designated chairman and CEO in May 2008.

Strom has held leadership roles with Illinois and Kane County farm bureaus. From 2000-06 he served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Advisory Council on Agriculture, Labor and Small Business, and with Northern F.S., Inc., a farm service and supply cooperative serving farmers in northern Illinois.

Strom still runs his third-generation farm producing soybeans and corn in rural Maple Park and rural Elgin.

Calls to Isaacs were not returned as of press time.

According to a press release, Isaacs served as deputy laboratory director for programs for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne. He became director of the laboratory in May 2009. During his 13-year tenure at Bell Laboratories, he was a member of the technical staff, director of materials physics research department and director of the semiconductor physics department.

He earned his Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988 in the area of magnetic semiconductors.

“Dr. Isaacs and Mr. Strom are outstanding public servants and distinguished residents of Illinois who have made great contributions to their respective fields of science and agriculture,” said NIU President John Peters in the release. “It is only fitting that NIU pay tribute to their careers in this exceptional way.”